NEW YORK — Roger Federer will not increase his men’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles at this year’s US Open.
The second-seeded Federer unraveled after winning the first set against John Millman to allow the Australian to record his first career victory over a top-10 player with a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) fourth-round win. Millman failed in his previous 10 career attempts against top-10 opponents.
“I just thought it was very hot tonight and was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air,” Federer said. “There was no circulation. For some reason, I just struggled with the conditions tonight. It was one of the first times it happened to me.
“It was uncomfortable and kept sweating, sweating as the match went on. When you feel like that, everything is off.”
This is the first time that the 29-year-old Millman’s ever reached a Grand Slam fourth-round. The Brisbane native has yet to win a tour-level title, which was in stark contrast to Federer with 98 career titles to his credit.
“I’m probably in a little bit of disbelief,” Millman told the crowd after scoring the shocking victory. “I have so much respect for Roger. Obviously, today his game was not at his best, but I’ll take it.”
It’s been 10 years since Federer won the last of his five consecutive US Open trophies in 2008. He won his 20th Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open this year.
Making his 18th appearance at the US Open, Federer had previously never lost to a player ranked outside of the top 50 in 40 matches played at Flushing Meadows.
Federer, 37, looked a shadow of the legend fans expect to see when the Swiss sensation takes to the court. From the start of the second set, he seemed a step slow, error-prone, and confused as to how to get out of trouble.
He had set points at 5-4 40-15 in the second set and three set points in the third set, but couldn’t capitalize on any of those opportunities.
“I started missing on chances I had and I was unhappy about that,” Federer said. “But at some point I was happy the match was over.”
Federer posted a surprising 77 unforced errors to just 28 for Millman, which including 10 double faults.
In contrast, Millman played top-flight tennis and his confidence kept building as the match progressed.
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Even when Federer momentarily looked to be recovering in the fourth-set when he broke Millman’s serve in the sixth game of the fourth-set for a 4-2 lead the Australian held his nerve. This wasn’t the Federer fans were used to seeing, and from 40-30 ahead in the next game he surrendered his serve to let Millman back even.
Federer’s final blunder, which ushered him to the exit, was in the fourth-set tiebreaker. At 2-1 for Millman, Federer hit two consecutive double faults to go down 4-1. On a third match point for Millman, Federer sailed a forehand long to end what was a 3 hour, 35 minute misery of a match for him.
The hoped for quarterfinal matchup between Federer and the sixth-seeded Novak Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon champion, will not materialize. Instead it will be Millman who will be playing Djokovic in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.